"Q" Source

II Dating: Continuous process from 30's CE
into the early Post-Apostolic Era


A. What is the "Q" source?

Let's remember the basic definition of the "Q" source. It consisted of materials shared between Luke and Matthew without mention in Mark. Of course, it remains a hypothetical reconstruction with some gray areas caused by overlaps with verses from Mark and disputes between scholars on which exact verses belong in the Q and which do not. However, most scholars who adhere to the theory do agree on the majority of passages that the two evangelists did clearly share (what John Kloppenborg called the "minimal Q").

1. A Sayings Gospel?

Unlike Mark's continuous narrative, the "Q" source consisted, in large part, of wisdom sayings. This fact made the "Q" more like a sayings document than a formal gospel. Scholars have compared it to secular works like Lucian of Samosata's (125-180 CE) "Demonax," a series of philosophic verses, or to the Mishnah's (200-300 CE) "Chapters of the Fathers," a collection of sayings lacking an overall narrative structure. It also echoed parts of the canonical Proverbs and the deutro-canonical Sirach.

Scholars most frequently compare the "Q" to the Gospel of Thomas, a mid-second century CE work with Gnostic influences. The document has three partial Greek sources (called the Oxyrhynchus papyri) and a complete Coptic source. The Coptic Thomas consisted of 114 sayings, half of which found parallels in the Synoptics, over thirty parallels in the "Q." They possess a shortened, coarser style that, according to some scholars, revealed a more primitive and less redacted state that their "Q" counterparts; indeed, scholars can easily translate a few sayings from Coptic into Aramaic. Thus, according to this logic, Thomas provided an independent source of early Christian material that predated the canonical gospels and possibly influenced the "Q" source.

However, many scholars reject the "independent early source" theory based upon the later date of Thomas' publication, arguing that, using Occam's razor, it is easier to assume the author of Thomas adapted sayings found in the Synoptics than to create a hypothetical independent source. Indeed, some hold Coptic Thomas showed a gnostic redaction of some canonical passages. John P. Meier, in his first volume on the historical Jesus, "A Marginal Jew" (pp. 137) summarized the objection:

"Is it likely that the very early sources of Jesus' sayings that the Gospel of Thomas supposedly drew upon contained within itself material belonging to such diverse branches of 1st century Christian tradition as Q, special M (exclusively Matthew passages), special L (exclusively Luke passages), Matthean and Lucan redaction, the triple tradition (of the Synoptics) and possibly the Johannine tradition?...Or, is it more likely that the Gospel of Thomas has conflated material from the Gospels of Mathew and Luke, with possible use of Mark and John as well?"

While the debate raged hot in the 1990's, cooler heads prevailed in time. I agree with those current scholars who hold the "Q" source resembled a sayings document like Coptic Thomas but did not depend on it.

2. Three Possible Origins for the "Q."

We can explain the origin of the "Q" in three ways.

a. Origin theory one: an author wrote an original work.

b. Origin theory two: a scribe gathered oral traditions together into a single document.

c. Origin theory three: Luke and Matthew simply heard the same passages/sayings in their communities, then put pen to paper.

Let's see which of these theories (or combination of them) proves more likely.

B. Analytic Overview

For the study of the "Q" source, I adopted the verses outlined by the International Q Project, spearheaded by John Kloppenborg. I followed their grading of confidence in the reconstruction of the text:

No parentheses indicated a high degree of certitude.

[[…]] Double brackets indicated a lower degree of certitude.

?Number? Question marks at the beginning and end of the verse indicated the lowest degree of certitude.

I selected the text for high certitude (without double brackets or question marks). Then I analyzed it for theme, usage by the community and language similarity. I based the following figures on verses from Luke. Let's begin with the thematic breakdown of the verses containing high certitude:

Q Genres
Theme Percentage
Wisdom 30
Eschaton 17
Wisdom-Eschaton 7
Narrative 17
Controversy 11
Command 5
Social Critique 5
Miscellaneous 7

Almost a third of the Q consisted of wisdom sayings, followed by verses on the end times (eschaton), narratives (mostly centering on the Baptist) and controversies (with Pharisaical Jews). Notice that the wisdom verses and their hybrid variants comprise of almost forty percent of the "Q" source.

Let's continue with how the Church employed these verses:

Use for Q Passages
Usage Percentage
Didactic 59
Didactic-Evangelization 6
Polemical 19
Didactic-Polemical 11
Miscellaneous 6

The communities used over two thirds of the verses for instructing members, mostly in Christian lifestyle. Thirty percent of the passages delved into polemics on some level.

Now, let's consider how closely Luke and Matthew hued in wording. I graded each passages on a continuum from strongest to weakest: word-for-word, close, loose, thematic.

Agreement in Wording
Similarity Percentage
Word for Word 4
Close to Word for Word 20
Loose to Word for Word 23
Thematic to Word for Word 20
Thematic 21
Miscellaneous 12

Notice that, while the strongest (word-for-word and close) represented only twenty five percent of the verses, forty three percent representing the weakest (loose and thematic) contained some word-for-word phrases.

Finally, let's looked at the distribution of verses in each Q citing:

How long are the Q passages?
Verses per Passage Percentage
1 12
2 24
3 24
4 12
5 14
7 or above 14

Sixty percent of the passages contained a verse count of three or less.

Taken together, these factors pointed to an oral tradition in the Q source (origin theories two and three). The source was practical as it represented diverse topics but focused primarily on teaching community members how to live as Christians (catechesis) or how to defend the faith (polemics). It showed a strong tension we found in the Passion-Resurrection narrative: to maintain key word-for-word phrases even in loosely or thematically related passages found in Luke and Matthew (this allowed for narration flexibility on the part of the teacher or redactor). It also revealed a majority of short passages which allowed for memorization. So, the Q source did not develop overnight but over time. If a scribe wrote the entire "Q" or in part (origin theory two), he meant to standardize the sayings to allow for further oral recitation and instruction.

C. "Q" Source Outline

For the most part, the "Q" source was arranged in Luke into clusters, but followed the Synoptic gospel schema, beginning with the appearance of the Baptist and ending with eschatological discourse. An outline of the verses helps us identify these groupings.

1. Narrative Cluster: Mark-Q Overlap
(Mk 1:2-6, Mk 1:7-8, Mk 1:11-12)

a. John the Baptist: Narrative (Lk 3:2-3, Lk 3:7-9, Lk 3:16-17)

b. The Baptism (Lk 3:21-22)

c. The Temptation: Narrative (Lk 4:1-13)

While not exclusively in the "Q," many scholars include the Baptism of Jesus as a bridge between the narratives of the Baptist and the Temptation. In the first part of the overlap, John preached an immersion as a sign of repentance (Mk 1:4, Mt 3:1-2, Lk 3:2-3); the "Q" source expanded on that message with the rebuke of those who faked metanoia and claimed birthright salvation (Lk 3:7-9, 16-17; Mt 3:7-12). In the second part of the overlap, the Mark simply mentioned the Temptation of Jesus; in the "Q" source, Luke and Matthew detailed that testing (Lk 4:1-13; Mt 4:1-11).

The baptism of Jesus itself emphasized the outpouring of the Spirit, both upon him (Mk 1:9-11, Mt 3:16-17, Lk 3:21-22) and, through him, upon his followers (Mk 1:8; 1 Cor 12:13; Jn 1:32-33). The baptism of disciples connected initiation into the Christian community with the life, mission and death of Jesus himself (Rom 6:3-7). Soon, converts would enter the Church community by immersion in the name of the Trinity (Mt 28:19).

By analogy, the call of John to metanoia and the Temptation paralleled the journey of the neophyte from introduction to the faith through guilt conviction of sin (John's ministry) to the internal and external stresses of life in the Christian community (Jesus' time in the desert). These themes preceded the appearance of the Gospels into the early ministry of Paul (even into the late 40's CE). So we can assume early Christians shared the tradition and theology of baptism along with the emergence of the oral gathering of "Q" material.

2. Second "Q" Cluster

a. Blessings: Wisdom-Eschatological (Lk 6:20-23)

b. Relations with Outsiders: Wisdom (Lk 6:27-32, Lk 6:34-36)

c. Parables: Wisdom (Lk 6:37-49; Overlap Mk 4:24-25)

d. Miracle for the Centurion: Narrative (Lk 7:1, 3, Lk 7:6-10)

e. John's Inquiry and Jesus' Comments: Narrative (Lk 7:18-20, Lk 7:22-28)

f. Children in Marketplace: Social Critique (Lk 7:31-35)

The space between the first two "Q" clusters consisted of the the rejection of Jesus at the Nararene synagogue ("L" tradition; Lk 4:14-30), Mark's narrative about the Christ's early ministry in Galilee (Lk 4:31-44; Mk 1:29-39) then the Marcan controversy chiasmus (Lk 5:12-6:11; Mk 1:40-3:6) and, finally, the call of the Twelve (Lk 6:12-16; Mk 3:13-19). Within the second cluster, the evangelist weaved in his own unique traditions (with the exception of a brief Mark-Q overlap): "woes" (Lk 24-26) and raising of the widow's son (Lk 7:11-17).

3. Missionary Cluster

a. Eager Volunteers: Social Critique (Lk 9:57-60)

b. Missionary Instructions: Command (Lk 10:2-12; Overlap Mk 6:8-13)

c. Judgment on Galilean Towns: Social Critique (Lk 10:13-15)

d. Receive or Reject Missionary: Social Critique (Lk 10:16)

e. Thanksgiving for Revelation: Prayer (Lk 10:21-22)

f. Commendation of Disciples: Prayer (Lk 10:23-24)

The space between the second and missionary clusters included the anointing at Bethany (Lk 7:36-39; Mk 14:3-9; "L" tradition - Lk 7:40-50), female leadership ("L" tradition - Lk 8:1-3), Marcan parables (Lk 8:4-18; Mk 4:1-20), Jesus' true family (Lk 8:19-21; Mk 4:35-41), Marcan miracles (Lk 8:22-56; Mk 4:35-5:43), commission of the Twelve (Lk 9:1-10; Mk 6:7-11), feeding of the 5,000 (Lk 9:10-17; Mk 6:30-44), the question of the Christ (Lk 9:18-27; Mk 8:27-30), the Transfiguration (Lk 9:28-36; Mk 9:2-13), Mark's chiasmus on leadership (Lk 9:37-50; Mk 9:14-39) and Jesus' rejection by the Samaritans ("L" tradition - Lk 9:51-56). Besides the Mark-Q overlap, Luke did not redact this cluster.

4. Fourth "Q" Cluster

a. The Lord's Prayer: Prayer (Lk 11:2-4)

b. Sayings on Prayer: Prayer (Lk 11:9-13)

c. The Beelzebul Controversy: Controversy (Lk 11:14-20, Lk 11:23; Overlap Mk 3:22-27)

d. Return of the Evil Spirit: Controversy (Lk 11:24-26)

e. Request for a Sign: Controversy (Lk 11:16, 29-32; Overlap Mk 8:11-12)

f. Parables of Light: Wisdom (Lk 11:33-36)

g. Woes: Controversy (Lk 11:39, Lk 11:41-44, Lk 11:46-48, Lk 11:52)

h. Sending of the Prophets: Controversy (Lk 11:49-51)

i. Revelation and Anxiety: Wisdom (Lk 12:2-7; Overlap Mk 4:22)

j. Honor and Dishonor: Wisdom- Eschatological (Lk 12:8-10)

k. Depending on the Spirit: Wisdom (Lk 12:11-12)

l. On Anxiety: Wisdom (Lk 12:22-31, 33-34)

m. Parable on Faithfulness: Eschatological; Didactic (Lk 12:39-40, Lk 12:42-46)

n. Divisions: Wisdom-Critique (Lk 12:51-53)

o. Settle with Creditor: Wisdom-Eschatology (Lk 12:58-59)

The interlude between the missionary and fourth cluster included the Great Commandment (Lk 10:25-28; Mk 12:29-30), the Good Samaritan parable ("L" tradition - Lk 10:29-37) and the controversy between Martha and Mark ("L" tradition - Lk 10:38-42). Luke edited the parable of the persistent neighbor ("L" tradition - Lk 11:5-8), three Mark-Q overlaps, the parable of the rich farmer (Lk 12:13-21, possibly in the "Q" source) and the parable of the waiting servant ("L" tradition - Lk 12:35-38).

5. Fifth "Q" Cluster

a. The Mustard Seed and the Leaven: Wisdom (Lk 13:18-21; Overlap Mk 4:30-32)

b. The Two Ways, Closed Door: Wisdom-Eschatological (Lk 13:24-27)

c. From East and West: Eschatological (Lk 13:28-29)

d. Lament over Jerusalem: Eschatological (Lk 13:34-35)

e. The Feast Parable: Eschatological (Lk 14:16-18, 21, 23)

f. Disciples and Salt: Wisdom (Lk 14:26-27, Lk 14:34-35; Lk 17:33; Overlap Mk 8:34-35)

g. The Lost Sheep: Wisdom (Lk 15:4-7)

The gap between the fourth and fifth clusters included a comment on justice ("L" tradition – Lk 13:1-5) and the parable of the fig tree (Lk 13:6-9; Mk 11:12-14), a Sabbath healing in the synagogue ("L" tradition – Lk 13:10-17). Besides two Mark-Q overlaps and a few "L" interjections, the only major interruptions lie in the banquet cure ("L" tradition – Lk 14:1-6), the question of banquet etiquette ("L" tradition – Lk 14:7-10, 12-13, Lk 14:11 possibly from the "Q") and the parable of the plans ("L" tradition – Lk 14:28-33).

6. Sixth "Q" Cluster

a. God and Money: Wisdom (Lk 16:13)

b. The Kingdom Suffers Violence: Social Critique (Lk 16:16)

c. On the Law: Halakhah (16:17-18; Overlap Mk 10:11-12)

The space between the fifth and sixth clusters included two long Lucan parables: the Prodigal Son ("L" tradition – Lk 15:11-32) and the Inventive Steward ("L" tradition – Lk 16:1-12). Besides the Mark-Q Overlap and a few "L" comments, the short cluster flowed.

7. Seventh "Q" cluster

a. Scandals and Forgiveness: Wisdom (Lk 17:1-4)

b. Mustard Seed Image: Wisdom (Lk 17:6)

The interlude between the sixth and seventh clusters contained the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man ("L" tradition – Lk 16:19-32).

8. Coming of the Son of Man: Eschatological
(Lk 17:23-24, Lk 17:26-27, Lk 17:34-35, Lk 17:37)

The gap between the seventh cluster and the end times discourse included a brief parable ("L" tradition – Lk 17:7-10) and the cure of the ten lepers ("L" tradition – Lk 17:11-19). The saying contained a Marcan verse (Lk 17:31; Mk 13:15-16) and several "L" comments.

9. Parable of the Minas/Talents: Eschatological
(Lk 19:12-13, Lk 19:15-24, Lk 19:26)

The space between the end times discourse and the parable of the minas included a Lucan parable and sayings on prayer ("L" tradition – Lk 18:1-14), a Marcan cluster on those accepted in the Kingdom (Lk 18:15-30; Mk 10:13-31; Lk 18:35-43; Mk 10:46-52) divided by a prediction of the Passion (Lk 18:31-34; Mk 10:32-34), then the Lucan story of Zacchaeus ("L" tradition – Lk 19:1-10).

10. Judging the Twelve Tribes: Eschatological (Lk 22:28-30)

Between the parable of the minas and the statement on the thrones in the Kingdom, for the most part, Luke followed Mark's narrative of Jesus entering Jerusalem through his Temple ministry to the Last Supper.

Note the largest clusters gather in chapters 9-10 (Missionary), chapters 11-12 ( fourth "Q") and chapters 13-15 (fifth "Q" cluster). These clusters represent the diversity of themes found in the "Q". The gap between the Baptist-Temptation and second clusters contained a Marcan cluster; the same could be said of the space between the second and missionary clusters. Other interludes included "L" tradition materials and/or Marcan verses. These clusters bolster the claim that Luke was more concerned about linear than structural redaction (stringing various narratives and sayings together vs. organizing materials into chiastic or parallel forms). This strengthened the thesis that Luke imported the "Q" material as it existed in the source in the same way he imported entire sections of Mark.

D. Kloppenborg's Argument
for an Early Date

In his book for a popular audience, "Q, the Earliest Gospel," prominent scholar John S. Kloppenborg argued for an early dating for the "Q" source. He based his thesis in three areas: 1) focus of the "Q" in Judean rural poor, 2) ethics and spirituality of such poor and 3) Jesus as a Deuteronomistic prophet-martyr.

1. The "Q" had a parochial, rural focus
(Kloppenborg pp. 65-72)

Unlike Mark which employed geography to delineate Jesus' life and mission (from Galilee to Jerusalem), the "Q" source used geography and topology to clarify moral divisions. It praised rural environments while holding urban areas with disdain. Homes and hamlets were places of peace (Lk 10:5-9) while places of public gathering (marketplaces and assemblies) contained conflict and duplicity (Lk 7:25, 31; Lk 11:43; Lk 13:26). The usually feared wilderness contained the message of salvation through God's end time prophet (Lk 3:7-9, 16-17; Lk 7:25-26). But the towns of the region were condemned for rejecting the Good News (Lk 10:13-15).

Let's amplify that last point. Unlike the Synoptics which implicitly envisioned the Christian movement growing within city environs, the "Q" considered Judean cities as hostile, reflecting a more parochial viewpoint. It condemned local civic-religious leaders (the Pharisees) for their stifling web of rules that governed an urban Jewish lifestyle (Lk 11:39-42). It also implicitly critiqued urban spirituality in Judea by praising the faith of foreigners (Lk 7:1-10; Lk 11:32).

Unlike Mark which portrayed many miracles as proof for Jesus as the Christ, the "Q" source took such wonders for granted. It only cited three scenes which touched on the subject: the healing of the Centurion's servant (Lk 7:1-10), the response to the Baptist's inquiry (Lk 7:22-23) and Beelzebul controversy (11:14). In all three instances, the miracle citing did not point to Jesus himself but to the presence of the Kingdom. Jesus praised the centurion for his great faith, implicitly not in the Nazarene himself but in God working trough him (Lk 7:9). He stated miracles within his ministry as a matter of fact (Lk 7:22) and those in the Kingdom were superior to the Baptist (Lk 7:28). His exorcism was a sign of the Kingdom's presence (Lk 11:16-19). Instead of highlighting the Nazarene's wonders, the "Q" assumed them as signs of the Kingdom "in their midst." Such an assumption indicated familiarity with the type of ministry Jesus had.

2. Ethics and Spirituality in the Q
(Kloppenborg pp 85-96)

Ancient cultures embedded religion in every aspect of life, whether it be political, social or economic. Indeed, all but the rare agnostic-philosopher could not conceive of life without relationship with the gods at every moment of life. This rang especially true in a social hierarchy. The rich and powerful considered themselves closer to the divine, justifying their actions by appealing to the will of the gods. It also rationalized prejudice against the poor and outcast. That did not mean the underclass lacked power; they just exercised it through deceit and guile, cheating the tax man or their landowner by whatever means possible.

Judean rural audiences were poor. At best, they squeezed out a subsistence living as tenant farmers, semi-skilled, or craftsmen or herdsmen for hire. At worst, they wasted away begging on the streets. They suffered from over-taxation and exorbitant farm rents. These people identified with the images found in the "Q" source: maintaining groves (Lk 3:9: Lk 6:43-44), harvesting (Lk 3:17; Lk 12:24, 28; Lk 17:34), repayment of agricultural loans (Lk 6:38), the dangers of building a house on a wadi (Lk 6:47-49), day laborers (Lk 10:2, 7), settling a case before it got to urban courts (Lk 12:58-59), rapid growth of the mustard plant (Lk 13:18-19; Lk 17:6) and shepherding (Lk 17:34).

Elites in a class based hierarchy controlled the poor with perpetual indebtedness through taxes and farm rents. Not surprisingly, these people would petition God for debt relief. Consider the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive other's debts" (Lk 11:4). It proposed an alternative to the oppressive state of constant debt: reciprocity. If the petitioner forgave those indebted to him (whether literally or metaphorically), then he could seek divine debt relief. And, as he sought generosity from God, he should bestow it on his neighbor (Lk 6:30-32, Lk 6:34, Lk 6:38) even to the point of mercy (Lk 6:36). Note generosity didn't set aside justice, for if he should be remiss in his debts, he should seek to make amends before his case came to court (Lk 12:58-59).

The spirituality found in the "Q" extended beyond reciprocity; it required trust. The faithful should not focus upon present concerns but upon the eternal (Lk 12:24; Lk 16:6-7). Through the eyes of God, the poor, the famished, the mourning and the persecuted were the blessed (Lk 6:20-22) for, as they suffered like the prophets, they would receive everlasting reward (Lk 6:23). The trust of the poor inverted the notion of divine favor. Material wealth did not guarantee God's blessing (Lk 12:16-20); indeed, the faithful should not seek such but set their sights higher (Lk 12:33-34). While the concerns of the rural populace did press down upon them, these worries did not trump the greater vision of the Kingdom.

3. Death and Afterlife of Jesus
(Kloppenborg pp. 73-78, 80-84)

Some scholars view the "Q" source through the lens of the "Deuteronomistic" outlook about the prophets found in Jeremiah, some later books of the Hebrew Scriptures and writings of the Second Temple period. This worldview emphasized the prophets as heralds of repentance and their fatal end at the hands of their enemies . It saturated the "Q" with the condemnation of the unrepentant (Lk 3:7-9, Lk 7:33-24), the cost of discipleship (Lk 6:2-23) and the tradition of slain prophets (Lk 11:47-51; see Nehemiah 9:26-27). But the "Q" mixed the Deuteronomistic outlook with an anticipation of the end times, focused on Jesus. While it did not explicitly proclaim the salvific nature of Christ's crucifixion (indeed, it had no mention his Passion at all), it did indicate his fate (Lk 14:27) and his glorious return (Lk 13:34-35). It linked his death as a prophet with the day of YHWH.

What happened to Jesus after his death in the "Q?" The source did not mention Jesus rising from the dead, but it did reflect the Jewish notion of a blessed afterlife as unified human beings (Dan 12:2-3). And, it identified the resurrection of the unified as a part of the messianic mission:

Answering, (Jesus) said to them, " Going (back), tell John what (you) see and hear. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor are evangelized.

Q 7:22

This mission resonated in other corners of first century Judaism. Consider Dead Sea scroll 4Q521 (lines 1-2, 11):

[the hea]vens and the earth will listen to His Messiah,
and none therein will stray from the commandments of the holy ones.
For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor.

The righteous raised would witness to the mission and condemn those who rejected it:

The Queen of the South will rise up in judgment against the men of this generation and will condemn them, because (she) came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon and, Look! (something) greater than Solomon (is) here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in judgment against this generation and will condemn it, because (they) repented at the preaching of Jonah, and Look! (something) greater than Jonah (is) here."

Q 11:31-32

So, what happened to the righteous before the general resurrection? God would bodily assumed these few into heaven in order to preserve them from evil and have them wait for their role in the end times (see Wis 4:10-11). Elijah (2 Kings 2:12; Mal 4:5-6; Sirach 48:10) and Enoch (Gen 5:24; 1Enoch 70-71) were counted among the assumed with a role on the Day of YHWH. In the "Q," Jesus himself would disappear (Lk 13:35) until the time of divine judgment (Lk 11:49-51).

Thus, the "Q" couched resurrection within the ministry of Jesus and saw his afterlife in terms of assumption, removing the righteous into heaven in order to await an end time return. The later point dovetailed with the tradition of the empty tomb found in Mark 16:1-4, Mk 16:8.

4. The "Q" as a Written Document

Was the "Q" source oral tradition or a written document? Kloppenborg explained the problem in this way:

"...literary rates in the ancient Mediterranean...were very low – between 3 and 10 percent...(thus) this was an oral-aural-scribal culture where most communication was based not on reading but on hearing. A small class of literate persons, the scribes, served to prepare written communication when needed...the majority of the population could access written texts only through their oral performance or recitation." (Kloppenborg, pp. 55)

In other words, people transmitted the narratives, sayings and polemics found in the "Q" primarily through oral means. But why do a majority of scholars assume the "Q" found its way into Matthew and Luke as a written document? Simply because of the high percentage of word-for-word agreement between passages in the two gospels. "This level of verbatim agreement is very difficult to explain except on the thesis that Matthew and Luke were copying a document." (Kloppenborg pp. 56)

Further, Kloppenborg argued that, despite the influence of linguistic tendencies from Aramaic that scholars have found in the "Q," the written document with that name was penned in Koine Greek; no original existed in Aramaic. He speculated that, since legal and business documents from the era found in the eastern Mediterranean (especially those discovered in Egypt), other written texts requiring the services of a scribe would naturally be written in Greek; after all, it was the franca lingua of the Hellenistic kingdoms before Roman conquest. (Kloppenborg pp. 58-59)

5. Agreement and Caveats

Kloppenborg presented a convincing case for rural Galilean origins of the sections in the "Q" source, along with social prejudice found in hamlets against urban centers and their leadership, both civil and religious. He also fleshed out the spirituality of the Nazarene that promoted divine reciprocity for economic relief, trust in YHWH and an ethics of generosity. Finally, he laid out the case for the Deutoronomistic outlook of the martyr prophet and combined it with eschatological expectations; thus, the populace foresaw a role for the assumed few in the end times, including Jesus.

Unfortunately, the thrust of the such books as Kloppenborg's presented a false image to the public. The message implied the "Q" source was a unified written document of a strictly Galilean origin from an early but closed community; its theology painted a vastly different worldview than that of orthodox Christianity. Let's try to correct that misleading image.

a. Problems with the "Proto-Gospel" Thesis.

Many scholars simply assumed the "Q" created a unified, written whole. This downplayed the oral traditions that fed the text shared by Matthew and Luke. It ignored the tension of accurate memorization via feedback loop; after all, many of the eye witnesses in the Apostolic era were Galileans, thus acting a living feedback loops. It also passed over a hunger to add materials about Jesus and the Christian movement to the shared oral tradition.

Instead, the "Q" could represent many sources that shared similar outlooks. The different genres found in it give one pause. The thematic passages (21 percent of the "Q") allowed for pure oral transmission whether they were wisdom, controversy, social critique and eschatological sayings. Thematic or loose passages with word-for-word phrases (43 percent of the "Q") shared the same passing-on. Take, for example, the Temptation narrative. Luke (Lk 4:1-13) and Matthew (Mt 4:1-11) revealed differences indicating the flexibility of oral performance and/or recitation while emphasizing accurate memorization via a feedback loop (note that loop was a set of passages from a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint, so did not depend upon a common, written Christian source). In other words, I don't agree with those who argued for a one way transmission, from text to recitation (origin theory one). Instead, I hold a majority of the passages in the "Q" source revealed an active oral tradition (origin theory three).

How do we account for those passages that follow close to word-for-word (23 percent of the "Q")? A scribe (or scribes) could have written them down and passed them along, becoming the basis for their inclusion in Luke and Matthew (origin theory two). The question however arose: when did he (or they) put pen to paper? For a moment, let's assume a scribe wrote them down as the "Q" source. Many scholars argue for a much earlier composition date than the canonical gospels, as soon as 50 CE. This belief runs into the following problem. Experts have used statistical analysis to estimate the total number of Christians in 50 CE at 1,500, thus inferring a preference for personal relationships over appeals to literary sources. Indeed, while Paul used secretaries to transcribe his letters then set them to the respective communities via a representative, he preferred to see the faithful face-to-face (Rom 1:11; 1 Thes 2:18); he also assumed believers knew each other on a first name basis (1 Cor 16:10, 12, 15, 19; Phil 4:2-3, Philemon 23, Rom 16:3-15, 21). While the Church had access to scribes in the apostolic era, why would such a small movement have need of their services when the faithful expected the immanent return of Christ in glory and possessed something far superior to written documents, the words of living eye witnesses?

Instead, I hold the scribe(s) transcribed the passages in the late apostolic to early post-apostolic eras, for the same reasons that I dated the canonical gospels after the fall of Jerusalem. Scribal infrastructure in the Jesus movement only developed after the fever of expectation waned and these witnesses began to die off. In other words, a written "Q" had a short time window of existence between its writing (late 60's to early 70's CE) and its appearance in Luke and Matthew (thus explaining its loss to history since it would no longer serve a function in the Church and, so, be discarded). A written "Q" depended upon an oral collection, possibly drawing from various Galilean traditions (origin theory two).

b. Other Traditions from 30 CE Galilee.

Early Christian tradition possessed Galilean sources outside of the "Q." Consider what it stated about miracles:

"If by the finger of God [I] expel demons, then already the Kingdom of God (is) upon you." (Q 11:20)

"The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor are evangelized." (Q 7:22)

In the second volume of "A Marginal Jew," John P. Meier listed those miracles he holds find their root in the historical Jesus:

1) "I expel demons:"

i. "Q" Beelzebub controversy (Lk 11:20 and Lk 11:14-23)

ii. Exorcism of demonic boy (Mk 9:14-19; possibly in Galilee, see Mk 9:33)

2) "The blind see:" Man at Bethesda (Mk 8:22-26)

3) "The lame walk:" Man lowered through the roof at Capernaum (Mk 2:1-12, Mt 9:1-8, Lk 5:18-26)

4) "The dead are raised:"

i. Metaphorically in the healing of the centurion's boy at Capernaum (Lk 7:1-10, Mt 8:5-13, Jn 4:46-54)

ii. Literally in the raising of Jarius' daughter (Mk 5:21-43; Mt 9:18-26, Lk 8:40-56)

5) "The poor" are fed: Multiplication of the loaves and fishes for the 5000 near Bethsaida in Galilee (Mk 6:30-44, Mt 14:13-21, Lk 9:10-17, Jn 6:1-13)

Notice that Meier listed miracles either in the Q or in Galilee (Meier, vol 2; pp. 969-970). From this brief overview, we must assume other traditions from Galilee existed outside the "Q" that were found in canonical gospels. Of course, this raised the question of interaction between these sources, the Mark-Q overlaps being prime examples.

c. "Q" Theology as a Step-stone in the Evolution of Christian Thought.

Was the "Q" community self-contained, closed off as some sort of renegade Christianity? Or, did it represent a stepping stone in the evolution of Christian thought? After all, the "Q" passages had some sort of cache in the Christian communities, ultimately finding a place in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. For example, Kloppenborg implied such in the death of Jesus:

"Whoever does not bear his (own) cross and come behind ME, (he) is not able to be MY disciple." (Q 14:27)

"...it is hard to imagine that the Q people, hearing Q 14:27, would not connect it somehow with Jesus' death." (Kloppenborg pp. 75)

Although he insisted the Q community did not envision the death of Jesus as salvific, he did recognize they projected the fate of the Nazarene onto themselves as the faithful (Lk 6:22-23). As mentioned above, he painted Jesus as a Deuteronomistic prophet-martyr.

While Kloppenborg acknowledged a blessed afterlife included unified person (not the dualistic notion of body and soul), he differentiated between "assumption" and "resurrection." Yet, his distinction indicated location (sacred geography) not status of one's being (ontology). In other words, the blessed enjoyed the same wholeness but some were assumed into the celestial realm, others raised in the terrestrial arena. But, he failed adequately recognize death in the distinction. The two assumed figures in the Hebrew Scriptures, Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) and Enoch (Gen 5:24) didn't die; Jesus did. Doesn't the assumption of the deceased righteous into heaven necessarily imply his resurrection from the dead? Would a Galilean follower who heard about the death of the Nazarene really maintain God assumed Jesus into heaven but did not raise him from the dead?

But these factors begged the question: how many steps did the Q believer need to take in order to realize the "orthodox" view of the crucifixion and resurrection? After all, the Q community recognized Jesus as their leader and identified his movement as their own. They also personalized his suffering with their own status as oppressed outsiders. They held firm to the notion their Jesus sat in the presence of the Father and had a central role in the end times which were immanent. They gathered as an eschatological community, those preparing for salvation, since Jesus took up the ministry the slain Baptist left behind. How far would the Q faithful stretch to see their leader and his fate as pivotal in God's plans for the end? I think just a short distance. In fact, Kloppenborg himself recognized the implied afterlife of Jesus found in the "Q" matched that of Mark's empty tomb tradition (Kloppenborg pp. 84).

So, I question the notion that the "Q" source existed as a unitary document written much earlier that the end of the Apostolic era, originating in an early Galilean community that closed itself off from "orthodoxy." I've argued that the lines between the "Q" and "orthodoxy" blurred in the oral tradition. The factors and tensions within oral tradition could explain the tracking of verses in Matthew and Luke from thematic to word-for-word. Galilean traditions (miracle accounts) existed outside the "Q" that find its origin in the 30's CE, along with, as I have argued, the Passion-Resurrection tradition. And, much of the extreme distance some modern scholars place between the theology of the "Q" and the canonical authors amounted to nothing more than their assertions. In other words, the situation in the Apostolic era was far messier than many would like to admit (origin theories two and three).

D. Survival of the "Q" Source

Why did Luke and Matthew adopt early Galilean materials ("Q") in their gospels? We've already mentioned several factors. Many of the eye witnesses in the Apostolic era were Galileans, thus acting as authorities in the feedback loop. The neophytes adopting the new faith would adhere to the the instructions of these gruff leaders from the backwaters of the Empire. And, even though they lived in an urban setting, they would identify with the rural characters in those sayings for two reasons.

First, they encountered local farmers and hamlet dwellers who came to city marketplaces to sell their produce; they overheard the complaints these pagan rural poor shared with their Judean counterparts: over-taxation and exorbitant rents from absentee landlords. And, as urban poor suffering from some of the same conditions, they empathized with the people in those passages.

Second, they internalized the prejudices of the "Q" community against non-Christian Jews. Since synagogues acted as the centers for Galilean cities, those worship centers represented the cities that rejected the Good News: Nazareth, Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. In the mind of early Christians, the acts of these synagogues closely paralleled the ejection of Jewish-Christians from local assemblies. And the caricature of the Pharisees found in the gospels matched that of the local Jewish leaders that led those synagogue. As, the early disciples in Galilee faced prejudice, so did the urban faithful in the early post-apostolic era.

Hence, neophytes adhered the "Q" materials because the leaders instructed them with a particular cultural viewpoint (Galilean) and because they identified with rural outsiders described in the materials. The sufferings and prejudices of the "Q" community members became those of their urban counterparts.

E. Conclusion

We end where we began. What is the "Q?" As I stated above, it consisted of materials shared between Luke and Matthew without mention in Mark. It contained various genres like narration, wisdom sayings, social critique and parables. It began with narratives on the Baptist and ended with passages on the eschaton. This last point, however, requires some reflection. A person or process redacted the materials into a thematic arc about Jesus of Nazareth, making the oral/written tradition of the "Q" source into a gospel; it would resemble the Marcan flow if we took away the Passion-Resurrection narrative. No matter whether the community grouped various sayings and narratives into clusters or an editor deliberately arranged them together, these people proclaimed the "Q" materials as the Good News, impressing them upon the faithful as the life and instructions of Jesus himself.

Of course, the existence of these passages in a thematic arc begged the question: how do they relate to the Passion-Resurrection narrative? Before the discovery of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, many scholars assumed the "Q" was a catechetical tool supplementing the Passion; afterward, they viewed it as a stand alone "sayings Gospel." But, as I have argued, the messy development of the "Q" and the Passion-Resurrection narrative paralleled each other in time. And, because small Christian communities emphasized personal relationships during the Apostolic Era, they shared whatever scraps of oral tradition about Jesus they could find and preserve them as best they could. In other words, the wall scholars placed between the "Q" and the other canonical gospels might reflect modern prejudices more than the lived experiences of the ancient Christians.

So, the "Q" source was a gospel of oral tradition(s) that fed into the greater task of kerygma and catechesis, naturally finding its way into the gospels of Matthew and Luke.